Body image is something that all people struggle with. Society has created this standard of beauty that is most people can never achieve. Photo in magazines are often photoshopped to craft this image of perfection. People are made to look thinner, have blemishes removed, and body parts enhanced. The finished product is a fantasy. There is added pressure for women to be thin, have perfect hair, a clear face, and a fair complexion. In the fashion industry alone, models are usually a size 0 or 2. If you are a bit thicker and maybe a size 6 or 8 you could be considered a “plus size” model when in fact you are still thin.
While it is almost expected for women to have body image issues in American society, these issues also affect men especially gay men. The poster child for gay men, in terms of body image, mainly comes from gay porn where the men are extremely muscular, smooth, and in many cases white. This creates an unreal standard for young queer men to try and live up to. If a person isn’t those three things or a combination of two, they may feel unattractive and that their lives will end up alone. Personally, I am none of those things.
I am not fat, but I’m not thin at all. I have thick thighs, a big butt, and a little cushion in my mid-section. I also have body hair and chestnut brown skin. While body hair is becoming attractive again, many of these features are perceived as unattractive by gay men. People with features similar to mine, or are just different form the “standard”, spend hours upon hours at the gym trying to gain muscle, faithfully shave all of their body hair, and in many cases only date people who fit the standard.There have been so many times when I’ve encountered people who say that they only date or hook up with white guys who fit this standard and this isn’t just white men, but men of color as well.
Personally, I went through a phase in my life where I thought I was the most unattractive person in the world. All of my friends were meeting people and forming relationships and I wasn’t. I would go out and all of my gay male friends would end up dancing with guys, but I’d be the one dancing with one of my female friends who joined us. I felt like no one wanted me or would ever want me. It’s a tough thing to go through. And I was going through this as a young adult in college. Now before college and me openly expressing my queer identity, I was constantly teased for having a big butt and my weight. I’ve never been an extremely overweight person and I’m aesthetically an average sized person, but I would be called fat and big booty. As a person still trying to figure himself out this scarred me. I hated my derrière and wanted it to be gone. I would wear baggier pants and pray that one day I could have it removed.
It is something I have always had and before the teasing I didn’t think anything of it. My uncomfortableness with my butt started when I was 11 years old. I was in the fifth grade. Everyday I would hear, “Damn Ronald! What do you eat because everything goes straight to your ass.” That was from the girls. The guys would say that I have a girl booty. It was just mine. That was the first time I became conscious of the larger size of my rear. In middle school it only got worse. People would start to pinch it every time I walked passed. If elementary school was everyday, middle school was every hour. I hated it and hated myself for not fitting the norm. As I got to high school, things changed a little bit. I came out. When it came to guys they only were attracted to me because of the butt. The hatred for the butt only increased. At that point I discovered that my rear was 1-2 sizes bigger than my waist. I hated buying pants (I still do). If anyone were to ask me what my biggest flaw was, I would say my booty. Nothing else about me caused as much strife as it did. In college, I embraced my thicker thighs and legs. So eventually my shorts got shorter. However with shorter shorts and slightly tighter fitting clothing, my butt stuck out a bit more. If I was out, I would often have it smacked, grabbed or have unsolicited comments made about it. None of it was ok with me and only caused me to despise it even more.
My issues with my body are getting better as I get older. But it’s a work in progress. I’ll never be that image of perfection that’s depicted in gay porn. Those images are not something that everyone can or should strive to attain. It’s that ideology that causes people to go extremes. Gay men have a lot on their plate without the added pressure of the perfect body. Think about it. If a gay man worked extremely hard to achieve the standard, then they would have to work twice as hard to keep it. The fear of losing it would cause an obsession with working out and being thin. People come in all shapes and sizes and everyone is not meant to be a size 28 waist. Once we understand that our bodies are as unique as our personalities, maybe just maybe we’ll be able to abolish these standards and start loving ourselves a whole lot more.